Washington hopeful on future of Kosova plan and urges speed
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried told journalists in Washington on March 12 that it should not be assumed Russia will veto a UN resolution on the final status of the UN-administered Serbian province of Kosova, RFE/RL reported. Speaking two days after the end of consultations on a UN blueprint on the contested region, Fried said that Russia has voiced "concerns," but that the United States and Russia have worked "very closely and collaboratively" on Kosovo's status over the past several years. He expects that to continue. Fried added that there is still an opportunity to incorporate changes to the plan before its author, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, presents it to the Security Council. Fried's deputy, Rosemary DiCarlo, stressed at the same press conference that Belgrade and Prishtina agree on "80 percent" of the UN plan. Many in Serbia expect Russia to wield its veto, a hope that Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic sought to cool on March 9, warning Serbs against "hasty, gambling conclusions" that Russia will scupper the Ahtisaari plan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 12, 2007). Fried dismissed one of Russia's and Serbia's key arguments against the proposal, that independence for Kosova would be, as Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica said on March 11, "the most dangerous precedent in the history of the United Nations." "The precedent simply doesn't apply," RFE/RL quoted Fried as saying. "We have said before and we'll say again as many times as we have to, that Kosovo is not a precedent for any other area -- whether that's Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Chechnya, Transdniester, Corsica, or Texas."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Fried denied media reports that Kosovar Serbs warned him during his visit to the region in early March that they will leave en masse if the UN's plan is approved (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 12, 2007). "I did not hear the mayors talk about mass exodus. I did not hear threats of violence. I did not hear demands, and threats of disruption," RFE/RL reported. "What I did hear was a great deal of concern about the future, a desire for clarity, a desire for an international presence beyond the status process, and from a great many Kosovo Serbs, I heard strong expressions of support for KFOR [the NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosova] and what KFOR is doing to protect them." He also said that "there is clearly not a great deal of trust, but there is at least a great deal of determination to make the Ahtisaari plan work." Fried underlined that security is a key reason for a swift resolution of Kosova's status. "Delay is not going to bring more stability," Reuters quoted him as saying. "Delay could bring exactly the kind of instability we are worried about," adding that "this is the Balkans, people have guns." Fried told RFE/RL that the international community, Belgrade, and Prishtina face "difficult choices under difficult circumstances," but "we cannot go back to the situation before 1999" and "the status quo is not sustainable, so therefore we must look ahead." Serbia is willing to offer Kosova broad autonomy but insists on retaining sovereignty, while ethnic Albanians are broadly satisfied with the plan, which they believe sets the region on the path to independence. // Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. RFE/RL